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Phytochemistry. 2004 Aug;65(15):2197-204.

Effects of elevated CO2 on the vasculature and phenolic secondary metabolism of Plantago maritima.

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  • 1School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.


We have examined the effect of elevated CO2 on the vasculature and phenolic secondary metabolism on clones of the maritime plant Plantago maritima (L.). Plants were exposed to either ambient (360 micromol CO2 mol(-1)) or elevated (600 micromol CO2 mol(-1)) atmospheric CO2 within a Solardome facility and harvested after 12 months' growth. Histochemical analysis of the leaves identified increases in the diameter of the minor leaf vein and associated lignified vessels in plants exposed to elevated CO2. In the roots the number of lignified root vessels and stele width were also increased, but overall the lignified vessel-wall thickness was reduced in plants exposed to elevated CO2, compared to those grown under ambient CO2. To investigate whether or not these subtle changes in lignification were associated with perturbations in phenolic metabolism, aromatic natural products were analysed by HPLC-MS after treatment with cellulase to hydrolyse the respective glycosidic conjugates. The phenylpropanoids p-coumaric acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid and the flavone luteolin were identified, together with the caffeoyl phenylethanoid glycosides, verbascoside and plantamajoside which were resistant to enzymatic digestion. Exposure to enhanced CO2 resulted in subtle changes in the levels of individual metabolites. In the foliage a one-year exposure to enhanced CO2 resulted in an increased accumulation of caffeic acid, whilst in the roots p-coumaric acid and verbascoside were enhanced. Our results suggest that significant changes in the vasculature of P. maritima on exposure to increased CO2 are associated with only minor changes in the leaves of specific lignin-related metabolites.

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